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Forsake Fear, Remain Ready

A Homily for the 19th Sunday of the Year

By Msgr. Charles Pope

In the Gospel for this weekend (Luke 12:32-40) the Lord Jesus presents a "Recipe for Readiness." He gives this recipe so that we can lay hold of his offer that we not be afraid. But he is not simply saying, "Be not afraid." He is explaining how we can battle fear by being ready.

It is frequent problem in the modern experience of the Christian life that many remain vague about what is necessary to be ready to meet God. Many also make light of the day of Judgment and consider it all but certain that they and most of humanity will be found approved.

Jesus does not however adopt this posture. In fact he teaches the exact opposite and consistently warns of the need to be ready for our judgment. As such, He does not counsel a foolish fearlessness rooted in the deception that all or most will be saved. Rather he counsels a fearlessness based on solid preparation for the day of judgement. Jesus tells us at least five things to do in order to be ready, and therefore not afraid.

If we are not ready by these sorts of preparations, Jesus warns, later in this text that He will come when we least expect and, like a thief, take away all that we wrongly call our own. Jesus says elsewhere, But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap (Lk 21:34). And the apostolic tradition adds, that to those unprepared, disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman's labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. (1 Thess 5:3).

Thus, while Jesus begins by saying that we ought not fear, (for the Father wants to grant us the kingdom), he also warns that being free of fear is contingent on embracing and following a plan that he (Jesus) sets forth for our life.

So lets look at this plan and see how we can forsake fear by becoming and remaining ready. Jesus gives us five specific and concrete things to do that will help us to be ready when the Lord shall call us. It is not an exhaustive list, for no one passage of Scripture is the whole of Scripture. But here are some very practical and specific things to reflect on and do.

I. REASSESS YOUR WEALTH: Jesus says, Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. In effect the Lord is giving us here a triple teaching on wealth. First he says that we ought to

Fore-go Fear. In the end it is fear that makes us greedy and worldly. We grab up the things of this world because we are terrified of not having enough for tomorrow. But what if we could receive the gift to trust God more and know and experience that he will give us our daily bread? He has given us the Kingdom, why not everything else besides? He may not give us everything we want but we can learn to trust that he will give us what we really need. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be given unto to you (Matt 6:21). If we can just allow God to diminish our fear we will be surprised how easy it is for us to be generous with what we have and not hoard it.

Forward your Fortune- We store up treasure for ourselves in heaven when we are generous to the needy and poor. Treasure is not stored in heaven by way of a rocket ship or balloon. It is stored there by generously distributing our wealth to others in wise and creative ways. This was discussed in last week's reading more substantially see here: Instructions on Income While it may not be appropriate for us to sell everything and go live on a park bench, the Lord is surely telling us to be less attached to and passionate about money and things for they root us in this world. And where our treasure is, there also will our heart be.

Fix your focus - Our focus is wrong and worldly because most of us have our treasure here. But once we become less fearful and more generous, our obsession with worldly treasure subsides and our joy in heavenly treasure grows. And this fixes our broken focus. For now our heart is where our treasure really is and ought to be: in heaven with God. So simplify, be less rooted in this world and come to experience that your greatest treasure is God and the things waiting for you in heaven.
So, reassess your wealth. What is it and where is it? That will tell you a lot about your heart too.

II. READY TO WORK: The Lord says "Gird your loins" which is the ancient equivalent of "roll up your sleeves." The Lord has a work for us and wants us to get about it.

Surely the Lord has more than a worldly career in mind. He has in mind things like raising kids in godly fear, pursuing justice, and growing in holiness. The Lord wants us to work in his Kingdom. We must commit to prayer, Sunday worship, the reception of the Sacraments, to obedience and holiness.

And the Lord has a particular work for us based on our gifts. Some can teach, others are good with senior citizens, still others are good entrepreneurs and can provide good work for others at a just wage. Some are skilled at medicine and the care of the sick. Some are called to priesthood and the religious life. Some are called to suffering and to offer that suffering for the salvation of souls. Some serve in strength, others in weakness. But all are called to serve, called to work.

So work with what the Lord gave you to advance his kingdom. Part of being ready means doing our work.

III. READ THE WORD: The Lord says, "light your lamps."

At one level, the phrase "light your lamps" is simply a symbol for readiness (eg. the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matt. 25:1-13)

But in another sense "lamp" is also a symbol for Scripture. For example, You Word O Lord is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Ps 119:105). Or again, We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).

So here we can also understand that the Lord is teaching us that an essential part of being ready is to be rooted and immersed in the Scriptures and the Teachings of the Church. It makes sense of course. There is just too much stinking thinking in this increasingly secular world hostile to the faith to think that our mind is going to be anything but sullied if we are not reading Scripture every day. How will our minds be sober and clear if we are inebriated by the world?

Clearly, being ready means reading Scripture each day and basing our life on it.

IV. REMAIN WATCHFUL: The Lord says, "And be like servants who await their master's return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks...Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."

Now there are different ways to watch and wait. There is the passive watching and waiting that we may do when waiting for a bus. We just sit there and look down the street. But there is another way of waiting that is more active. Consider the kind of watchfulness that one has who waits on tables. This is an active waiting and watching. It observes what is necessary and what will soon become necessary and moves to supply what is needed.

There is also an eager sort of waiting intended here much like the eager waiting of a child on Christmas Eve. The Child does not wait in dread for the coming of "Santa" but with eager expectation.

And so it is that a watchful waiting and an eager waiting are what the Lord has in mind here. It is like that active waiting when we have invited a guest to our home eagerly prepared the house, and all is readiness. We know that his arrival is imminent and so we joyfully prepare and place all in order.

And to set our house in order is to sweep clean our soul of sin and all unrighteousness by God's grace, and to remove all the clutter of the worldliness. Regular confession, daily repentance, sweep clean the house, and simplifying our lives and freeing ourselves from worldly attachments de-clutters the house of our soul.

Have you prepared the home of your soul for the Lord's arrival? If not, the Lord says, you may experience him as a thief. Now the Lord is not really a thief for everything belongs to him. But if you and I have not renounced our worldliness and greed, if we have not de-cluttered our lives of attachments to this world, the Lord WILL come to and take back what is his, but he will seem like a thief because we think it is ours.

It's never a good idea to call God, the Lord and owner of all, a thief. Bad move.

V. REFLECT ON YOUR REWARD: The Lord says, Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.

The Lord is clear that he has a reward for those who are found ready!

It is prefigured in the banquet of the Eucharist wherein the Lord prepares a meal and feeds us. The Lord says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). And again, And I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom (Luke 22:30). We have so much easy food today but in the ancient world one of the most pleasant things they looked forward to was a hearty meal in the company of good friends and family.

The Lord offers us the magnificent blessing of heaven wherein we will be with him and those whom we love forever in unspeakable joy and peace.

Do you meditate often on heaven and long for its rewards? One of the stranger aspects of the modern world is that, even among believers, we talk so little of heaven. True, it is not a place any of us have been yet so it's hard to fully understand what it will be like. But reflect often on the joy waiting for you in heaven.

Part of being ready to go home to Lord is to long for that day to come. When we want to do something we eagerly prepare for it, we are motivated and make sacrifices to do it. When we desire it we will more naturally get ready and lay aside whatever is necessary to make the passage there.

So here are five elements constituting a recipe for readiness. Better set your house in order 'cause he may be coming soon!

This article has been republished with the consent of the author after it was originally published by the Archdiocese of Washington.

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